If your summer vegetable planting has been successful you should have an abundance of cherry and regular tomatoes which are now ripening quickly along with summer squash, pole and bush beans, okra, cucumbers and peppers. The proper time to harvest squash and cucumbers is when they are of useable size for you but do not let them get too big for fresh eating as the taste will be diminished considerably. Sweet peppers left on the vine to turn red will be sweeter but can be picked green when they reach a useable size. Hot peppers will also develop more of their characteristic tones of spicy, hot and/or smoky traits when left to fully mature on the plant. All peppers will begin to turn colors more quickly in August. Deciding when a tomato is vine ripened depends upon the kind of tomato. Typically hybrid tomatoes will
turn an even color all over the fruit and when just slightly squeezed, the fruit should give in just a little. An heirloom tomato may be more difficult to judge by colorings since some fully ripe heirloom tomatoes could have a rosy red bottom but speckled or blotchy colorings on the upper half. The fruit itself should have a little give just like a hybrid and if in doubt pick one and test. If critters like squirrels and groundhogs are giving you fits as they also like your tomatoes at peak ripeness pick your tomatoes a day or two early and allow to ripen out of the sun inside.
This week in the garden start looking for “bad” bugs such as Brown Marmorated stink bugs, squash bugs, cucumber beetles, Mexican bean beetles and Harlequin bugs. Each of these can be handpicked with garden gloves and dropped in soapy water. Early morning is best to collect these. Also look under the leaves for egg cases and smash these so the next generation does not get started.
Now is the time to consider a fall garden planting since broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower transplants will be planted beginning this week. Right now transplants locally are hard to come by unless you have started them yourself but may be available online or from a gardener friend. Fall garden vegetables from seed are comprised of the cool weather vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, radish, kale, carrots and arugula mixes. Use leftover seed from the spring or order online. The longer maturity date of some fall vegetables mean they must be planted earlier in August. Some cool weather vegetables can survive light or hard frosts usually with some protection like row cover. You can find out more about cool weather vegetable planting in our area at: http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/426/426-334/426-334.html